Waitakere Magpies edge thrilling AAFL Grand Final

The Auckland AFL has a new champion, after the Waitakere Magpies won a close contest against the former champions, the Mt Roskill Saints. The fixture was a repeat of last year’s final, but a reversal of the result.

In a tense match, where the lead fluctuated throughout, it was the Magpies who managed to hold their nerve and maintained a late lead, eventually running out to a 76-65 win at the Onepoto Domain.

Mt Roskill lead for much of the start of the match, going into the 1st quarter break with a 3.4:22 – 3.0:18 advantage. Waitakere hit back hard, controlling territory for much of the 2nd quarter to go into the half time break 4.6:30 – 6.4:40 up.

The Saints were by no means out of the contest though, putting together an almost perfect third quarter to retake the lead, and the momentum in the match. With the final quarter looming, they moved out to a 7.10:52 -7.4:46 lead.

Dan McGregor, who coached and played for the Magpies, was very clear on how his team prepared for the match. “We’ve always talked about it coming down to the last quarter of the last game, and that’s what happened. Everyone knew that when that happened, we’d all be playing for each other.”

With the score locked at 52-52 halfway through the final quarter, Waitakere player Joel Burns stepped up to kick a crucial goal. From there, the Magpies held the momentum and refused to let the game slip away. The final score was 9.11:65 – 12.4:76.

Michael Gregson was a deserved Best on Ground winner, after providing plenty of quality ball to the Waitakere forwards through accurate and astute kicking. Strong performances were also registered by Dan McGregor, Dusan Hakaraia and David Rattenbury.

Matt Kemp, captain of the Mt Roskill Saints, was upbeat despite the loss. “It was definitely one of the better games we’ve played this year, and they’re a good bunch of guys too.”

Earlier in the day the North Shore Tigers won the AAFL Plate Final, defeating the Manurewa Raiders. After a horrendous start, the Tigers clawed their way back into the match, eventually taking back the lead near the end of the final quarter.

The Best on Ground winner for that match, Ty Smith of the North Shore Tigers, was proud of his team’s achievement. “To bounce back like we did is a testament to how far we have come as a club.”

2013 has been a successful year for the Auckland AFL, with a new two-division structure being tested. Steve Fury, President of the AAFL, is pleased with the season. “We’ve had lots of competitive games, club numbers and player numbers have been good, and we’re building well towards next year.”

The impact of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme has been felt across the Auckland league. Both coaches acknowledged the performances of players who had recently been part of the Under 18 New Zealand Hawks.

Matt Kemp from the Mt Roskill Saints praised the young athletes in his side. “It’s been really good seeing some of our players come through from schools and high performance, like Grey Samuels and Taylor Alaelua. They’ve been among our best players this year.”

The same was true for Dan McGregor of Waitakere. “Eugene Hanna, Tevita Misiloi and Josh Copeland all had key touches at key times over the season, and they made a big difference for us today.”

With the National Provincial Championships next weekend, both Mt Roskill and Waitakere are providing large contingents of players for the Auckland team. Steve Fury is confident of success. “It’s our best squad for several years.”

The Auckland squad will be well represented by New Zealand Hawks players, with many of them coming from the Mt Roskill and Waitakere clubs. Michael Gregson, Shane Leat, Sam and James McKenzie, Dan McGregor, Michael Boyce and David Rattenbury will all be contenders to make the next New Zealand Hawks team, who will play against the AIS AFL Academy in January.